Dear Radio Friends,
Today I am going to bring to you a message under the theme, “The Revelation of the Man of Sin.” The subject will be the Antichrist. This will be the first of three messages on the Antichrist. I want to begin by reading with you from II Thessalonians 2:3, 4. Paul writes there: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [that is, the day of the return of Jesus Christ] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”
We have been looking at the signs of the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us in the Bible, “I come quickly,” and He says that His coming will be as a thief in the night. But to His people, He gives signs, not only to tell us that He is coming, and certainly not to tell us the exact time of His coming, but to keep us alert to His coming. The signs of the coming of Jesus Christ are always present in history, but as history progresses they increase in intensity and frequency. That means that right before the time when Jesus comes again in His second coming, these signs will be the clearest that they have ever been.
We have looked at some of these signs already—the signs in creation (the natural disasters), the signs among the nations (wars), and the signs in the church (departure and apostasy). Today we are going to begin to look at the sign of the Antichrist. This is one of the most prominent of the signs of Jesus’ return. Of all of the signs, it is the one most frequently mentioned in Scripture. Jesus Himself mentions it; Paul writes about it in his epistles; John writes about it in his epistle; you find it in the book of Revelation in the visions that John receives; and you also find it especially in the Old Testament, in the book of Daniel.
Who is the Antichrist? I want first to give a full description and then look at some scriptural passages to answer that question. The Bible tells us that in the future, right before Jesus comes again, a man—not an angel or a female—but a man who is identified in Scripture as Antichrist will establish himself as the ruler of a worldwide kingdom. That tells us that the nations will be united as one in the day when he comes. This man will have a charismatic personality. Revelation 13 says that all men wonder after the Beast. He will give great promises, promises especially of peace between the nations and prosperity for all people. He will proclaim himself as the answer to all the world’s problems—its social problems of poverty and of discrimination, and its political problems of war. This ruler will be a man who is tolerant religiously and morally, and will, in fact, attract so much support from the false religions of the earth, including false Christianity, that he will be worshiped as God, the God of all religions.
But at the same time, and here is where we really see who the Antichrist is, the Antichrist will be opposed to Christ and true Christianity and the Scriptures and the gospel. And in an attempt to destroy the witness of Jesus Christ in the earth, he will implement a fierce persecution against true Christianity. From a human point of view, the Antichrist will be quite a man, an amazing ruler. But, from a spiritual point of view, he will be the closest thing ever to the devil incarnate.
We want to see some biblical passages that support this description of the Antichrist. I first call your attention to the passage that we read in II Thessalonians 2. The saints in Thessalonica were worried about the sudden coming of Jesus Christ, but Paul tells them that they should not be deceived in thinking that the day of Jesus is at hand or imminent. He says that first there are two things that must take place: “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” The first thing that must take place is the great apostasy, the great falling away and departure from the truth. Then, on the heels of that, will be the revelation of the man of sin—the Antichrist. Antichrist will arise immediately before Jesus Christ returns. Later in the chapter, in verse 8, Paul says that when Jesus comes He will destroy the Antichrist “with the brightness of his coming.”
So, this sign of the Antichrist, the person and kingdom of the Antichrist, are a future reality. This is important because those who deny there are signs of the coming of Jesus Christ also deny that there is a future kingdom of Antichrist. They say that maybe the Antichrist will come after Christians are raptured up into the air. So, they say, we do not have to worry about the coming of Antichrist and the kingdom of Antichrist as Christians in this present age.
But now, we must see that, from a spiritual point of view, that is a very dangerous teaching. In I John 2:18, John says that Antichrist will come. Indeed, he says, there are many Antichrists. His point is that we must always be alert to the spirit of Antichrist, which is always present in the world and will, in the end, give rise to the kingdom and the person of Antichrist. That spirit is a spirit of pleasure, of humanism, of peace apart from Christ, a materialism of a man-centered life and religion. Antichrist is present in his spirit and his coming in the future.
Second, we see in Scripture that the Antichrist is a man, a real person, a human being, a male. You see that here in the descriptions that are given of him in II Thessalonians 2: “that man of sin…the son of perdition.” Then, the pronouns that are used for him are all in the masculine: “he,” and “himself.” That is important for us to see because we must understand that the Antichrist is not an angel. He is not some unidentified being that will come in the future as the devil incarnate. No, he is a man from among men, who will understand man and make promises to man and give man what he wants. His kingdom has this number, the number 6, which is the number of man. That also means that the Antichrist will not be an institution. Sometimes in the past Christians have identified the pope or the papacy as the Antichrist. It is true that the papacy is against Christ and against the gospel. But the Scriptures teach us that the Antichrist will be an individual.
In the third place, the Bible makes plain that the Antichrist will be a political ruler who will have a worldwide kingdom. We are going to see more about this in the coming messages on the Antichrist. You see this especially in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13, which speaks of him as the beast out of the sea, and then in Revelation 20, where Satan is let loose and the nations come together, deceived by Satan, and unite as one. The point here in II Thessalonians 2 is that God does not let the kingdom of Antichrist come prematurely. God has a reason for doing that. Verses 6 and 7 of II Thessalonians 2 speak of someone who withholds or lets. The idea is of restraining or standing in the way of the rise of Antichrist. The one who does this is God. This is described in Revelation 20 as the binding of Satan, and in Revelation 13 as the wound of the beast. The idea is that God holds the kingdom of Antichrist at bay. He will not let Satan deceive the nations, and He does that so that the cause of the gospel may continue and the white horse may ride victorious. But there will be a future kingdom of Antichrist when all the nations join as one with one leader: the Antichrist.
But we also see in Scripture that the Antichrist is not only a political ruler but a man with strong religious affiliations and a false religion of his own. We are going to see that also in the coming messages when we look in Revelation 13 at the Antichrist. We will see that he is called a prophet and a lamb. Revelation 17 speaks of the woman representing false religion riding the beast. So there is a close relationship between the Antichrist and false religion. But the passage here in II Thessalonians 2:3, 4 shows very clearly the religious character of Antichrist. He will come on the heels of a great falling away. At the end of the great falling away, or as a result of it, the man of sin will be revealed. People will turn from Christ and from truth and from God and from the gospel in droves, and the Antichrist will come on the heels of that.
In verse 4, the religion of Antichrist is described. He will exalt “himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped,” and he will, as God, sit in the temple of God, showing himself to be God. This is not to be understood literally. It means that he will set himself up as the head of all false religion. He will not only deceive the nations of the earth, but he will deceive all the religions of the earth. He will be a religiously tolerant man. So, this is the Antichrist—a man of influence. He will rise in the future, and he will establish a kingdom and a religion that is worldwide.
Now we want to ask the question, what will the purpose be of his coming, what will he seek to achieve? That comes out especially in the names that the Scripture uses to describe the Antichrist. Certainly these are not names that he in his deceit will take to himself. These are the Bible’s description of him. In II Thessalonians 2 there are three names that are given to the Antichrist that show that he will promote sin. He is called “the man of sin,” that is, the embodiment of all sin. He comes (v. 9) “after the working of Satan,” the most evil man that ever was. He is called also “that wicked one,” or more literally, “the lawless one.” That does not mean that there will be no law, that there will be chaos in his day, but it means that he will overthrow the law of God. That will not be done in a passive way. That will be done with legislation. That will be done very aggressively. Daniel says that he will change times and seasons. He will try to get rid of every last vestige of Christianity and of the knowledge of God in this world. Think today of the redefinition of marriage. Traditional marriage is seen as a bad influence on human society, and homosexuality and freedom of expression in sexuality is promoted.
He is also called here in II Thessalonians 2 “the son of perdition.” That means he is damnworthy, that God will damn him. Revelation 20 tells us that the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire.
Then also, Jesus calls him in Matthew 24 a “false Christ.” False means, literally, a “pseudo-Christ.” He will be a fake Christ. He will come as a puppet or an ape of Christ. The word “Christ” means “anointed.” The work of Jesus Christ is to bring salvation and redemption. The Antichrist will come and say, “I am anointed and I am sent and I am your redeemer and savior.” He will be something like the cult leaders of some of the other religions of the world, for example, Mohammed and Joseph Smith.
But the main name in the Bible used for the Antichrist, and the one that we use, is that name “Antichrist.” That word means two things. First, it means that he is against Christ or he is opposed to Christ: anti-Christ. He is going to say the exact opposite of everything that Jesus Christ says. Even though the Antichrist will appear as a messenger of love and someone who has concern for people, an angel of light in his false teaching, in truth, what drives the opposition of Antichrist is his hatred for Christ and the gospel. That helps us to keep our focus and our eye on Jesus Christ. We will recognize the animosity and the hatred of Antichrist to Jesus.
But the word “Antichrist” also means “instead of” or “in the place of” Christ. The Antichrist will come anti, or instead of, Jesus Christ. He will set himself up as Christ, in the place of Jesus Christ. He will usurp the position of God in religion and of Christ in salvation. That is the point again here in II Thessalonians 2:4. He sets himself up in the temple of God, so that as God he is worshiped. That is not literal, but means this, that he sets himself up in the church, as the head of the church, and as the head of religion. In the place of Jesus Christ, he takes the honor of Jesus Christ to himself. Now you can see why the Reformers labeled the pope as the Antichrist—because he sets himself up as the vicar of Christ in the church.
So, this is the Antichrist and this is his purpose, as a fake Christ who is opposed to Christ, he comes in the place of Jesus Christ. That is because his goal is to replace and to overthrow Jesus Christ and all true religion and true Christianity.
Now the Scriptures make plain that he will never be able to accomplish that goal. In fact, for our comfort, the Scriptures prophesy that in a very clear way in Revelation 12, where you have the vision of the dragon and the woman with child. When the woman brings forth the child, the child is caught up into heaven to be with God. So the dragon goes after the woman. The vision is this. After Jesus is born, and after His suffering and death, He is caught up into heaven in His ascension. So what does the dragon, the devil, do? He goes after the woman, the church. He launches his attacks on the church and the people of God. This is his goal. His object is not just to deceive the nations but to deceive believers. If he can deceive one believer, one of God’s elect, and bring him over from God’s side to his own side, then he has defeated Jesus Christ and the efficacy and the power of the cross and the gospel. But the devil cannot do that, either. Just as he cannot get the child, so he cannot get the woman. He cannot deceive God’s people. In Matthew 24:24, Jesus says that the deceit of Antichrist will be so strong that, if it were possible, the very elect would be deceived. “If it were possible.” Those are beautiful words because they mean this: that it is impossible.
But that does not deter the Antichrist from trying to deceive God’s people. So the Scriptures tell us about some of his methods. According to verse 10 of II Thessalonians 2, he will come with all deceivableness. He will say, “I am Christ.” He will have promises that are great. He will be smooth. He will put himself forward as plausible. He will be a great orator. II Thessalonians 2:9 says that he comes with “signs and lying wonders.” Those can be understood to be actual miracles. Satan will give power to this beast, the Antichrist, to perform miracles and, of course, he will hope by that to deceive God’s people.
One of the other methods of Antichrist, and we will see this more clearly in an upcoming message, is the method of persecution. He will come with a fierce hatred against God’s church and people and a bitter persecution. There will be imprisonment. There will be execution. This will be so strong that the church itself, the witness of the church itself in the earth, will be squashed, and the witnesses will be put to death—Revelation 11.
Now, one of the questions we ask is, How will he come? Revelation 13 says that the beast rises from the sea. Here it says that his coming is after the working of Satan and that the man of sin will be revealed. We have to understand that the Antichrist is not going to burst suddenly onto the scene as something new. He is not going to come as a politician with radical ideas that shake up the whole fiber of the nations and of the world, but he is going to come as a moderate. There is going to be something that is very attractive about him. His attractiveness will be that he will be able to bring everything and everyone together. Not only will he propose plausible solutions for economics and politics and social issues and religion, but he will bring the people of the earth together. He will ride a wave of popular opinion. He will be a great communicator, who will convince those who are against him, until, as Revelation puts it, the whole world will wonder after him, they will stand in amazement at him. He will be able to come that way because everything that the Antichrist represents is already present in the world.
Yes, the spirit of Antichrist is present. John says in I John 2:18, there are many antichrists. II Thessalonians 2:7 says “the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” The idea is that everything that the Antichrist represents is present in the world and he will ride a wave until finally he comes to his position of power. He will not come like a fanged demon, but he will come as a lamb. He will have his time. He will come as an angel of light, and his coming, we must understand, will only serve to bring us closer to the day of Jesus Christ. His day will be short, the Bible tells us, and immediately following it, Jesus will come.
So, what is our calling now with regard to Antichrist? First, it is to watch. We ought to be aware of the spirit of Antichrist and the many antichrists. We are not just scanning the horizon for Antichrist to come in the future, but we have to watch for it today. Then we have to oppose the spirit of Antichrist. We must oppose the religious and political unity that is sought. We must oppose heresy and promote the truth, so that there is not a unity with disregard to the truth. But especially we must oppose the spirit of Antichrist in ourselves, for it is my flesh that wants what Antichrist promises. There is an appeal in the materialism and the pleasure and the peace and the prosperity that the Antichrist proposes.
Then, our calling is also this: that we do not be afraid. That is our temptation. We hear of persecution. We see things happening in the world that are beyond our ability to resist and we are tempted to think that Antichrist is so strong and so powerful that he will prevail. But Jesus does not tell us about the Antichrist and his kingdom and his persecution in order to terrify us. Rather, He teaches us so that we may know that He is coming, so that we may know that He actually sends the Antichrist in preparation for His coming, and that when He comes, He will not only destroy the Antichrist and the kingdom of the Antichrist, but He will establish His own eternal kingdom. And the Antichrist and the beast and the prophet and the dragon will be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
So we should not be afraid. We should not look at the Antichrist, but we should, looking past the Antichrist, see Christ Himself. The Antichrist is a fake. He is an ape. He is an imitation. He could not be without the reality of Jesus Christ. So we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ Himself and the gospel and the purpose of His coming.
So pray, Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the way that Jesus prepares us for His coming by also telling us about the kingdom of Antichrist that is coming. We pray, help us to be watchful and ready, especially from a spiritual point of view against the temptations and the deceit of Satan and the Antichrist. Our prayer is: Come, Lord Jesus, and in hope of that day we expect all of these things to unfold so that the cup of iniquity might be filled up and the church redeemed and brought to glory. We look for that day. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Dear Radio Friends,